No New Faces on Bennett’s Slate

The Habayit Hayehudi slate for the 2015 election is a disappointment to Naftali Bennett, who would have to suffice with the same MKs, and no newcomers.

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The new Habayit Hayehudi slate, January 15, 2015.
The new Habayit Hayehudi slate, January 15, 2015.Credit: Dudu Bachar

The Habayit Hayehudi slate was chosen Thursday is a disappointment to the party. After the prolonged primaries process and opening of the party to 20,000 new members, all the present MKs have won the top places on the list, without a single new name that could bring votes from other camps.

Party chair Naftali Bennett would have been happy to see Rabbi Avihai Rontzki, Ronen Shoval and Dani Dayan at the top of the list too. Dayan was pushed down to an entirely unrealistic spot, and Rontzki and Shoval are in 15th and 16th place, respectively, waiting to see whether Bennett will guarantee spots for additional people and push them beyond the pale.

In the final analysis, anyone who relied on the party chairman’s support was disappointed. In this election Bennett learned the limitations of Facebook posts. In spite of his enthusiastic support for several candidates, they didn’t get the votes. Bennett, who hates interparty legwork, didn’t push the strongest elements in the party to support his candidates, and now he is forced to see the same faces in the top spots.

The big winner is Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, who switched from Tekuma to Habayit Hayehudi and reached all the way to second place. Instead of being a protege of Tekuma’s Uri Ariel, he is now an independent politician who is supported by a solid foundation in his new party.

Another element that did not pay a role in the primaries is money. Dani Dayan spent 150,000 shekels ($38,200) out of his own pocket (he’s a high-tech millionaire) and was unsuccessful. Shimon Riklin, who made a fortune in real estate, spent 180,000 of his own money and won only 7,927 votes. Ronen Shoval, who apparently spent the maximum amount of money (meanwhile he has reported donations of 170,000 shekels, most coming from him and his family), also brought back a disappointing number. Shoval won many votes at the polls in the center of the country, but is unknown to the religious community in the peripheral areas. Now the battle in Habayit Hayehudi is over the guaranteed spots. Bennett is in a real dilemma. The top of his slate includes the same names, with impressive representation for people from the Haredi-nationalist (Hardali) camp, such as Ariel, Bezalel Smotritz and Yehudit Shilat. Bennett would be happy to offset them with a soft candidate from outside, such as newscaster Yinon Magal. But on the other hand, any place guaranteed by Bennett pushes Rontzki and Shoval further down the list. Shoval, for example, who is now in 16th place, would be pushed to the unrealistic 19th place if one spot is guaranteed.

This evening in Kfar Hamaccabiah Hotel, Bennett will present his slate. Remember this picture, because it’s the last time that the public will see Bennett next to anyone who is not Yinon Magal or Ayelet Shaked. Bennett’s campaign is based on himself alone, and as far as he’s concerned, Avi Wurtzman and the rest of the gang can take a vacation from the election campaign.

Until the election Bennett will be anxious to see whether the investigation of corruption in Yisrael Beitenu will reach his own party. It’s possible that in the coming days several MKs from Yisrael Beitenu will be summoned to the investigation rooms, whether to give testimony or be questioned. So far Bennett has said that if corruption is discovered in his party he will throw out whoever is involved. The next 60 days could provide him an opportunity to keep his word.

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